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Old April 5th, 2010, 08:45 PM   #1
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Two Lighting Kits - which one to buy?

Hello,

I am looking to buy a lighting kit for video production for indoor use. I have found two kits on B&H that meet my price range - one with Fresnel lights and one non-Fresnel lights:

Altman | Swing Pac Tungsten 3-Light Kit | AK-SWING-PAC | B&H

Lowel | DV Creator 55, TO-84Z Case | DV-9034Z | B&H Photo Video

I was wanting to know the pros and cons of the Fresnel vs the Lowel lights and which one you would prefer to purchase and why. I don't know a whole lot about lights so any input and/or additional info you can offer about what I should be looking for when purchasing lights, will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
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Old April 5th, 2010, 09:23 PM   #2
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A Fresnel is a variable focus fixture where the light source is moved closer to or further away from the lens which in turn determines if the fixture provides a narrow throw or a wide throw. A snoot can provide a even narrower throw and a focal spot narrower still. Not all fixtures have focal spots available. Focal spots are often used with gobos.

Keep in mind that when you are looking at tungsten fixtures and see a number like 1,950 watts that's 1,950 watts of draw or nearly 18 amps. Since most breakers trip at 15 amps running all of those lights at once might be a problem. It's a big reason why fluorescents and LEDs enjoy so much popularity... you can throw a whole lot more lumens without tripping the breaker.

Were I in your shoes I'd hit up Lowel EDU - a Lighting Resource Center for Lowel's lighting tutorials before anything else. Then I'd look at some alternatives to a pure tungsten setup. This is not to say that you shouldn't have any tungsten fixtures... Fresnel is not available in fluorescent and tough to find (and expensive!) in LED.

FreshDV has a post about (relatively) inexpensive 5500K 85 watt CFL bulbs for $21 each (B&H sells 85 watt CFL for $30). You can pop these into Wal-Mart clamp lights and mount them on PVC stands for a super effective, versatile, and inexpensive solution that won't cook your subjects.

Luck.
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Old April 5th, 2010, 09:42 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Wheeler View Post
Since most breakers trip at 15 amps running all of those lights at once might be a problem. It's a big reason why fluorescents and LEDs enjoy so much popularity... you can throw a whole lot more lumens without tripping the breaker.
Absolutely - the flip side is that tungsten fixtures typically have a greater "throw" and can often be placed further from the subject they are lighting. As Mark suggests, a MIX of different lighting technologies are your best friend IF limited amperage is a concern (and outside of Industrial settings, it usually is...)

I own:
4 Ianiro Redhead 800w open face
5 Lowel Pro Light 250w prismatic glass
1 Lowel RIFA EX55 500w softbox
and a handful of barn doors, umbrellas, gel holders and the like.

I'd like to get a fluorescent fixture or two in there in the next little while before I restart my spending on daylight instruments.

Having a good solid idea of what your buying lights TO light will help you decide - I bought for seated interviews of one or two persons and industrial base light. If I wanted to fire all my lights up at the same time, I'd need four discrete circuits - not easy to find.

And remember, buy what you will use frequently and rent for the other times OR acquire lights one at a time as budget allows.
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Old April 6th, 2010, 11:09 AM   #4
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Paul:

The answer is that lighting kits are always a massive compromise and are usually bought by newbies as their first lighting purchase. Most lighting kits are expensive, give you a bunch of stuff you don't need and will not use. Most people purchasing a kit also do not understand that grip gear is as important as lighting gear and shortchange themselves. Lighting kits do not generally give you enough horsepower to light much beyond an interview.

Another tip, buy used, always buy used lights. Lighting, unlike cameras, lasts practically forever if taken care of and a used light, provided it actually works, throws the same light as a new light.

Most beginners are too lazy to assemble their own kit but that is what most pros do. I own three lighting kits and I rarely take a kit to a shoot. I usually take pieces from all three, plus some other gear that I have bought separately. It takes work, knowledge and evaluating what your lighting and grip needs will be but in the end, making your own kit is a far superior value over pre-fab kits and you will have what you need to light your shoots in your style, not having a pre-fab kit and not being able to do what you need/want to do because the kit doesn't have what you need. Assembling your own kit is actually kits, meaning that you will have the gear to support several types of situations, which is handy as most of us shoot more than interviews. I shoot dance films, commercials, promos, BTS, EPK and television and every shoot requires different lighting and grip. Starting with one small pre-fab kit severely limits what you have the capability to light.

As an example, my 2010 interview kit consists of two Coollights LED 600 daylight panels, a small Chimera, a 40 degree egg crate, two 42" Flexfills, an Arri 150 fresnel, an Arri 650 Fresnel, a celo Cucloris, two C-stands, two 8lb sandbags, three Matthews travel stands and a Pelican case. There are specific reasons why I use each light and why I use daylight balanced LEDs for key and fill sources. There are specific reasons why my hair/rim light is a tungsten. There are specific reasons why my BG light is an Arri 650 tungsten. This kit is custom assembled for my interview needs. I need low heat, low power draw, very little heat on the talent, enough horsepower to throw patterns through a cucloris onto a BG. It all fits into two cases, other than the C-Stands. it is small, light, efficient, works really well and my clients, from PBS to corporations to the movie studios, love the look I can obtain from this specific gear. It is my look. You need to develop your look and then buy the geat that allows you to obtain your look.

My 2010 narrative kit is five times as big and is a real pain to move and pack but to shoot a dance film or a commercial, it takes a lot more gear and lighting than a simple interview. See what I am getting at? You need flexibility unless all you will ever shoot will be interviews.

This will help you. Walter Graff put me on this custom kit road years ago and he is a working pro who has been doing this for decades. You don't see him bring a pre-fab light kit to his shoots, he uses this Light Kit

Enjoy!

Dan
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Old April 6th, 2010, 11:36 AM   #5
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All of the above advice is very solid. But, to answer you question I like the Lowell Kits, if that is the way you are going. I bought a Kit like the one you listed many years ago and I still have it, still use it and it still works great for what it is. Just like everyone else has said it really depends on what you are shooting and how you want it to look. Have a PILE of lights and grip items and I use almost all of them (usually not on the same shoot though). I do tend to take almost everything I own to every shoot though. I generally have NO CLUE what I'm walking into most of the time so I take it all. I have come across situations that I would have never have dreamed up on how to light sitting in my office. One shoot I did was in the Space Station Simulator (life size) at Redstone Arsenal in AL, that was a challenge and the lights became much less important than the clamps, flags, scrims and Lobo arms in the kit.
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Old April 6th, 2010, 07:36 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone for the great advice.

Mark:
Great advice and thanks for the link too - it contains some great info!

Shaun:
Thanks, I didn't realize the Tungsten lights had a greater throw... this is definitely something I need to consider since I plan to film in a large warehouse - most of the rooms are of regular size but some are quite big... hmmm, interesting.

Dan:
I appreciate your blunt opinion regarding lighting kits in general... unfortunately, since I'm on a budget (what indie filmmaker isn't these days, haha) my price range for lights right now can't exceed $2000. However, in the future I will definitely take your advice and try to obtain better equipment one light at a time. Thanks for your great reply. Below I have included a description of my current project that I am buying lights for, so if you happen to know the best way for me to spend my $2000 that will maximize obtaining of my goal, that would be super.

Jerry:
Glad to hear you say you prefer the Lowel kit - that's what most people are suggesting to me so I may end up taking this route. And yeah, I couldn't agree with you more about having no clue how to light a set until you actually get there - if there's one thing film has taught me it's always expect the unexpected, ha! I usually light for stop-motion so lighting for live-action is quite new to me :)


I will be filming a feature horror film set in an abandoned warehouse. The look I am going for is somewhat unique regarding the lighting. I am not going for the usual 3 point lighting scheme... I want the film to look dark. The idea of the building in the film is that it is abandoned, yet still retains some power. So at first it is pitch black inside, then when the characters turn on the lights, only a few will come on here and there throughout the building... some rooms might be fully lite, yet some rooms will only be partially lite, and some rooms will only have a crack of light shining into them from other rooms. This way I will have a lot of flexibility without having to worry as much about being perfect (in other words, I will attempt to light each room as best I can for the look I want, however, any mistakes I will make won't be as noticeable).

I currently have two 1K's that I plan to use for the rooms. But for the characters I only want to do key and fill lighting (no backlighting/highlighting) in order to provide a less theatrical look. I realize they won't stand out as much but that is the look I want. So it is mainly the character lighting that I am looking to purchase a kit for. Also, keep in mind that this film will be shot on a RED camera which looks as though these video cameras will be among the best in low-light situations.

So, does my plan sound doable? Or am I completely crazy and need to rethink everything? How should I spend my $2000? Please do let me know what you think... you guys know a lot more about this than I do so any and all info will be very valuable to me.

Thanks guys!
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Old April 6th, 2010, 07:56 PM   #7
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Sounds like neither kit will work - unless I'm COMPLETELY out to lunch, you need BIG wattage instruments if you're going to be doing any wide shots. For close ups you can work lights in closer but I'm not sure you're going to have enough "jam" with small instruments. And I assume you'll be shooting at night or that there is NO outside light "leaking" in or else you've got colour temp issues and colour correcting tungstens is a losing battle when fighting the sun...
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Old April 6th, 2010, 08:20 PM   #8
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Hi Shaun,
Yes, I will be shooting in the day time and there is daylight leaking in certain rooms - I'm glad you brought this up because the possibility of daylight and indoor light mixing has been a concern of mine - I've had this happen before and the results are not pretty. Sorry, I should have mentioned this above but forgot.

Most of the rooms in the building either have enough daylight shining in that I will not need to use lighting, or they contain no daylight, or just a slight peak of daylight shining through a few cracks in the wall. Will this small amount of daylight be enough to require on set color-correcting? Or will it be possible to color correct this in post?

Thanks
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Old April 6th, 2010, 08:23 PM   #9
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OK now hearing what you are doing don't go that route. You will need some BIG instruments to get what you want done. RENT!!!! Take your 2K and put it in your pocket, go to the set and map out every scene. Figure out how you want it to look. Take great notes and confer with your director. Then after all the major decisions have been made head on down to your local production rental house and rent what you need. Two grad may just be enough.... or not.
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Old April 7th, 2010, 07:14 PM   #10
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Ok, sounds great Jerry... I may end up buying a kit anyhow just so I have some extra lights at my disposal - plus I can play around with them to learn more about using lights in general. Then when it comes time to shoot the film next year I will look into obtaining some big guns for the warehouse.

I'm even thinking about incorporating the warehouse lights into the script as work lights used by the people who own the building in the story. That will give me more freedom to experiment with the lighting and may even allow me to get away way with using cheaper construction/work lights to light the building - plus if the audience knows the building only contains work lights inside of it, then their expectations of the lighting will change as well, allowing me to get away from using standard cinema lighting... I know this might sound like a nightmare to all the pros out there but I love to come up with different ideas (provided they work, of course). Any thoughts on this idea are welcome.

Thanks everyone for your great input!
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Old April 7th, 2010, 07:25 PM   #11
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Paul:

The Walter Graff link that I provided above is your best methodology for most efficiently spending $2,000.00. If you buy used, you could end up with a pretty nice kit for $2k. Not big enough for your project it sounds like, but a much better foundation than some hobbled little pre-fab kit.

If you would like an item by item shopping list for your exact needs, I consult professionally, contact me off-line.

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Old April 9th, 2010, 01:24 AM   #12
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I think you're right Dan, used will definitely be the best way to go. I think I'll wait until the RED cameras come out so I can test their superior dynamic range and low-light performance first - I'm aiming to shoot in as low of light possible without the image looking too flat or generating noise. Right now these cameras are a great a mystery until testing can be done - but I can't wait to see what I can get away with!
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Old April 9th, 2010, 01:06 PM   #13
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Dan, I'm surprised by the usage of the Lowel Omnis in the kit you reference. I will NEVER own Omnis due to the "donut hole" each and every one I have ever been forced to use has created. In my HUMBLE opinion, they are useful ONLY as indirect lighting sources. I'd love to hear your comment.
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Old April 9th, 2010, 02:46 PM   #14
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Don't forget to hire a hazer! Shafts of daylight streaming in through cracks into a dark room look really atmospheric. For horror, what you don't see can be just as important. Also assuming your camera has some tweaking adjustments under the hood - black can be critical here to make sure you really do get black not dark grey in the low lights and shadows. If you have darkness and in other places sunlight, a few reflectors can work marvels on stands - bouncing the sun soon raises light levels - for free!
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Old April 9th, 2010, 11:48 PM   #15
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Hi Shaun:

Well, the Lowel Omnis are not my favorite lights either, I haven't used one since film school actually but if you think about it, how do we use lights? Let me think of how I use tungsten instruments typically.

1. Key source through a Chimera - donut hole wouldn't matter
2. Fill source bounced into a Flexfill or foam core - donut hole wouldn't matter
3. Hair or rim light - donut hole might matter a bit, depends on how you are using it
4. Slash or stripe of light on the BG - donut hole might matter or might not
5. Throwing a pattern using a brancholoris or cucloris - donut hole wouldn't matter

So for my lighting needs, the donut hole, except in a few cases, wouldn't matter at all. I rarely would ever use a full width blast of light from an open face instrument, it is too harsh. I am always breaking it up or diffusing the light. And the point of the Graff kit is that you have several types of instruments for different effects and jobs. The Omnis are cheap, sturdy and have high output for low money. My favorite tungsten instrument is the Arri 300 watt fresnel, very useful. But a lot more money, weight, more fragile and not as high of an output when compared to an Omni. So for me, I would carry both and use both.

I lit a scene a few weeks ago in a film I shot mainly with an ikea bookshelf MR16 bulb light that I have had for fifteen years. And I broke up the pattern on the actresses face with a piece of black Cinefoil that I punched holes in with a clothespin. Is the Ikea $20.00 MR16 bookshelf light a very good instrument? No, it is terrible. But it was perfect for what I needed because I had no room in the scene and on the ultra cramped set to use a "real" video light so I hid this thing on the set, dimmed it down, broke it up and it worked perfectly.

I think the point of the Walter kit is to take his advice about the way to assemble a kit, not to buy the exact same stuff that he uses. At least that's how I took it. I made my own kit. Fewer lights than Walter uses and fewer stands. Frankly, I have that same Kata case he uses and I could not fit all of the stuff he uses into my Kata case. So I use some different lights and fewer items and a few things he doesn't use. Customize is the point of the exercise. I love my kit but I still do change it a lot, depending on the shoot.

Cheers,

Dan
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